Family and Friends Foster Care

Hertfordshire County Council believes that in the majority of situations, children/young people should live with their parents and where this is not possible their families and friends should be free to make suitable arrangements for their care without the intervention of the Local Authority.

This policy sets out our approach to supporting Family and Friends Foster carers. We will work with our partner agencies and the Local Children Safeguarding Board to keep it under review and to ensure that we help Family and Friends Foster carers where our assistance is needed.

See forms relating to this procedure: Fostering Forms and Guidance - HCC (


This chapter was reviewed and updated in March 2023.

1. Introduction

Children/young people may be brought up by members of their extended Family, friends or other people who are connected with them for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different arrangements.

Family and Friends Foster carers play a unique role in enabling children and young people to remain with people they know and trust if they cannot, for whatever reason, live with their parents. Many children who live in Family and Friends Foster care do well in life, but others are vulnerable to failing to achieve good outcomes. Many Family and Friends Foster carers both want and need support to enable them to meet the needs of the children that they care for.

The Family and Friends Foster Care; Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities 2011 makes it clear that children and young people who are unable to live with their parents should receive the support that they and their carers need to safeguard and promote their welfare, whether or not they are looked after by the Local Authority. Many Family and Friends Foster carers are grandparents, who may be older, in poorer health and less well off financially than others who may be looking after children and young people. Taking on another child or young person is likely to significantly change family life, both for the carers and for the child or young person.

In statutory guidance, a Family and Friends Foster carer means someone who is a family member or friend of a child/young person, or has some other pre-existing relationship with the child/young person, and with whom the child/young person is living full time. This could be in any of the following circumstances:

  • In informal arrangements with a relative (relative is defined by section 105 of the Children Act 1989 as a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of full blood or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step parent;
  • In informal arrangements with friends or other family members which last for a period of less than 28 days (if the intention is for the arrangement to last more than 28 days, then this may be private fostering);
  • As a private fostering arrangement;
  • As a looked after child/young person placed with Family and Friends foster carers approved by a fostering service provider;
  • Under a child arrangements order or special guardianship order; or
  • In arrangements which may lead to an adoption order.
It has been estimated that up to 300 000 children are cared for full time by Family  and Friends Foster carers, of whom over 7000 are looked after children placed with Family and Friends foster carers.

2. Values, Principles and Objectives

A key principle of the Children Act 1989, is that children/young people are best brought up within their families and, for the purposes of the Act, the term 'family' is to be understood broadly and could include relatives, friends and other significant people in the child or young person's life.

The child/young person's welfare is paramount.

The child or young person's family should be involved in the decision making and the planning for the future of that child or young person.

Children/young people should be enabled to live within their families unless this is not consistent with their welfare. The children and their families should be provided with appropriate support based on the individual child or young person's needs.

If the Local Authority does need to look after a child or young person they have a duty under the Children Act 1989 to place with relatives or with people with whom the child or young person is connected, as an alternative to being looked after by strangers, unless this is not consistent with the child or young person's welfare.

Children and young people have the right to have the opportunity to develop secure attachments to carers who are capable of providing safe, effective and loving care for the duration of their childhood.

3. Evidence Base

Most children and young people would prefer their parents to be supported to continue to care for them rather than becoming looked after by the Local Authority. If this is not possible children and young people say they would prefer to live with members of their extended family. However, children and young people did want there to be some assessment of where they were going to be living, recognising that not all family members would be good at looking after them.

Research has found that Family and Friends foster placements lasted longer than placements with unrelated carers.

Hertfordshire County Council works closely with the children and families who receive services from the Local Authority to ensure that service provision is responsive to their expressed needs.

Hertfordshire County Council has made a pledge to its Children in Care Council which represents not only children in care but also other children who receive a service from the Local Authority and sons and daughters of foster carers. This includes always listening to what the child/young person says and actioning their wishes when possible and giving reasons if this is not possible.

Children in care and their parents are encouraged to express their views as part of the Looked After child review process and as part of the review of approval of foster carers and private fostering arrangements.

As part of the assessment of Family and Friends foster carers the Local Authority consult with the prospective carers and the family to ensure their voices are heard and the child/young person's needs are met. Assessments seek the views of children and their family members, as well as the use of Family Group Conferencing – see section 9.

This policy will be reviewed annually and specific views will be sought from service users and partner agencies as to its effectiveness and what could be improved.

4. Management Accountability

The Operations Director for Specialist Services is the senior manager with responsibility for this policy.

This Director will ensure that council staff understand the policy, have appropriate training and operate within the policy framework so that it is applied in a consistent and fair manner across the county. The Director will ensure that local partners are aware of their responsibilities towards children living in these arrangements and are proactive in meeting their needs.

The Director will also ensure that the policy is publicised so that anyone considering becoming a Family and Friends Foster carer can be aware of its contents and clear about how to contact the council and other agencies for further information.

There are many options for caring for somebody else's child/young person and they all have their own legal framework. Some of the differences between the different options are summarised in Annex A: Caring For Someone Else's Child - Options.

If the Local Authority becomes involved, an assessment will be undertaken as to how best to meet the child or young person's needs. A decision will be made as to the support that will be required and whether or not the child or young person would need to become looked after.

The Family and Friends Care; Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities  2.12 states:

"Local Authorities and their partners should make sure that Family and Friends Foster carers are aware of relevant support services, and that these can be readily accessed by those caring for children whether or not these are looked after by the Local Authority. Whilst recognising the requirements which may go with a particular legal status, it is essential that services are not allocated solely on the basis of the child's legal status, and that commissioners and providers of services are aware that many children in Family and Friends Foster care have experienced multiple adversities similar to those of children who are looked after by Local Authorities. Where support services are identified as necessary to meet the child's needs, these should not be withheld merely because the child is living with a carer under an informal arrangement rather than in a placement with a foster carer or with a person with a residence or special guardianship order or an adopter."

The Local Authority has a duty to provide support under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 to children in need, which will ensure that wherever possible children/young people's needs are met through the best use of resources designed to safeguard and promote their welfare. This will help to ensure that, subject to meeting the statutory criteria, children/young people do not become looked after by the Local Authority unless that is the most appropriate way to safeguard and promote the child or young person's welfare. Support services are available to families without the child or young person becoming looked after and therefore children/young people should not become looked after if the only reason for so doing is to access these services. Local Authorities should make the decision of whether or not a child or young person becomes looked after (or ceases to be looked after), based on an assessment of the individual child or young person's needs and circumstances.

There are some differences between the entitlement to different forms of support by informal Family and Friends Foster carers and by those who are foster carers to a child or young person accommodated by the Local Authority.

These are summarised in Annex B: Entitlement to Support by Family and Friends Foster Carers Under Children Act 1989 Section 17 and Section 20 or Section 31.

6. Financial Support

Parents retain their responsibility for maintenance of their child/young person if they live with informal Family and Friends Foster carers. However, it can be a significant burden to informal Family and FriendsFoster  carers who may not have the financial resources to maintain a child. Some Family and Friends Foster carers will need to give up work in order to provide care for the child/young person.

Informal Family and Friends Foster carers should access benefits advice to ensure that they claim all the benefits and tax credits to which they are entitled.

However, there may still be financial difficulties. Local authorities have the power to make payments to children in need under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Payments can be made as a one off payment which, for example, could help with equipping a bedroom for the child or young person or the Local Authority could provide financial help on a regular basis.

The child/young person's social worker will discuss with the parents and those caring for the child/young person the need for financial support and if this is considered necessary to meet the child/young person's needs the social worker will make an application to the East and West Practice Resource Panel for a decision. The Panel process is used to ensure consistent, appropriate and equitable resource allocation. Payment will only be made in line with the Local Authority's duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

If the child or young person does require to be looked after by the Local Authority and placed in foster care then the fostering allowances and fees would be paid to the carer at the appropriate rate. Further information can be found on Hertfordshire County Council's website.

7. Accommodation

Sometimes Family and Friends Foster carers will find that taking a child or young person into their home places undue pressure on their accommodation.

This Local Authority will work with local district and borough councils to ensure that whenever possible Family and Friends Foster carers living in social housing are given appropriate priority to move to suitable accommodation.

8. Supporting Contact

The Local Authority has a duty to promote contact for all children in need with their families. However, depending on the legal status this duty is different. Schedule 2 (Children Act 89) paragraph 10 states that "Every Local Authority shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable where any child within their area who is in need and whom they are not looking after is living apart from their family – a) to enable him to live with his family and b) to promote contact between him and his family, if in their opinion it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard or promote his welfare".

If the child or young person is looked after by the Local Authority paragraph 15 of Schedule 2 of the Children Act states that "the authority shall unless it is not reasonably practicable or consistent with his welfare, endeavour to promote contact between the child and – a) his parents; b) any person who is not a parent of his but who has Parental Responsibility for him; and c) any relative, friend or other person connected with him.

Management of contact arrangements can cause some conflict for both informal and formal Family and Friends Foster carers. This is often due to familydynamics and how the parents of the child or young person may be viewing the arrangement.

If there are any concerns regarding safeguarding the child or young person's welfare then there will be a need for Children's Services to be involved and ensure that safe contact arrangements are made.

9. Hertfordshire Family Group Conference Service

A Family Group Conference is a decision-making meeting in which a child/young person's parents/carers and or wider family and friendship network makes a plan about future arrangements for the child/young person, which ensures that his/her safety and wellbeing is promoted. Family Group Conferences are intended as respectful, empowering processes. The aim is to enable those present to understand the concerns in relation to the care of the child/young person and how their needs can be met and for those present to produce a plan which will safeguard the child/young person and meet their needs. The expectation is that the 'Family Plan' will be agreed by the Local Authority provided it adequately addresses the concerns and it safeguards the child/ren/young people.

This model places the child and family at the centre of planning processes and provides them with an opportunity to have their voices heard. It is a major strength of Family Group Conferences that children/young people are supported by facilitators to participate in the conferences wherever possible and appropriate to do so.

Family Group Conferencing should be considered at an early stage in assessing and planning how the child/young person's needs can be met and as part of the Public Law Outline pre care proceedings process, that is in place to make safeguarding plans for children. Click here to access our information leaflet for families.

10. Support - All Carers

The need for support services from the Local Authority may be assessed as part of the assessment process. Other community based services, including CAMHS, can be accessed via other professionals such as a health visitor, GP or the child's school. Health and Social Care needs assessments can be requested by the carer directly to Hertfordshire County Council or through the child/young person's school.

Hertfordshire County Council have a number of Children's Centres that can be used by Family and Friends carers and provide access to a variety of services to support children under 5. Details can be found on Hertfordshire County Council's website.

In addition, Annex C contains a list of organisations that may be of assistance to any Family and Friends Foster carers.

11. Private Fostering Arrangements

See Access to the Private Fostering Leaflet and Private Fostering Procedure.

A Private Fostering arrangement is essentially one that is made privately (that is to say without the involvement of a Local Authority) for the care of a child/young person under the age of 16 (under 18, if disabled) by someone other than a parent or close relative with the intention that it should last for 28 days or more. Private Foster carers may be from the extended family, such as a cousin or great aunt. However, a person who is a relative under the Children Act 1989 i.e. a grandparent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt (whether of the full or half blood or by marriage or civil partnership) or step-parent will not be a private foster carer.

The period for which the child/young person lives with the Private Foster carer should be continuous, but that continuity is not broken by the occasional short break.

If a child or young person is living in a Private Fostering arrangement the Private Foster carer becomes responsible for providing the day to day care of the child or young person in a way which will promote and safeguard his or her welfare. Overarching responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the Privately Fostered child remains with the parent or other person with Parental Responsibility. Local Authorities do not formally approve or register Private Foster carers. However, it is the duty of Local Authorities to satisfy themselves that the welfare of children who are, or will be, Privately Fostered within their area is being, or will be, satisfactorily safeguarded and promoted. It is the Local Authority in whose area the Privately Fostered child resides which has legal duties in respect of that child/young person.

Where a child/young person is to live with Private Foster carers, it is a legal requirement for the Local Authority to be notified about the proposed arrangement, in writing, at least 6 weeks before an arrangement begins (or immediately where the arrangement is to begin within 6 weeks. There is also a notification requirement on any person (including parents) who is involved in arranging for a child to be Privately Fostered, or who becomes aware of such an arrangement.

Hertfordshire has a service which deals with Private Fostering arrangements. Initial contact can be made via Hertfordshire County Council's Customer Services on 0300 123 4043.

After a notification is received about a Private Fostering arrangement we will arrange a complete Private Fostering Assessment and regular visits to check that the child or young person is being well looked after and we can also give help and advice to the carers, parents and the young person. According to Regulation 8 of the Private Fostering Regulations 2005, Visits will be conducted at least every 6 weeks in the first year of the Private Fostering arrangement and at least every 12 weeks each subsequent year.

12. Family and Friends Care Foster Carers - "Connected Persons"

If, following assessment, the plan for the child or young person is to come into care (Section 20 or Section 31) they must be placed with an approved foster carer. If the placement is needed quickly, Family and Friends carers can be temporarily approved for 16 weeks (this can be extended for a further 8 weeks in exceptional circumstances). During this time a foster carer assessment will be completed which also includes a number of agency checks and references e.g. DBS, schools, friends/family, medical. The completed assessment is presented to Hertfordshire's Fostering Panel who will recommend whether or not a person is suitable to act as a foster carer. The final decision lies with the Agency Decision Maker who considers all available information, including the minutes of the Fostering Panel.

The legal framework for formal placements of Family and Friends carers (or connected persons as it is called in the legislation) is Regulation 24 of the Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review.

13. Support - Family and Friends

Services which are offered to Family and Friend foster carers as appropriate include:

  • A wide range of training including online training programmes;
  • Membership of foster carers support groups including specific support groups for Family and Friends foster carers;
  • Referral to welfare benefits advice;
  • Referral to Children's Education and Health Services - e.g. speech therapy;
  • Referral to CAMHS -Child Adolescent Mental Health Services;
  • Ongoing support from a supervising social worker and annual review;
  • The child will also have their own social worker.
This is not an exhaustive list and assistance required will vary from case to case. See Fostering Information Page.

14. Child Arrangements Order

A Child Arrangements Order may be helpful in cases where family or friends are caring long-term for children/young people. Child Arrangements Order holders acquire shared Parental Responsibility for the child/young person and have to consult with everyone who has Parental Responsibility for that child about decisions affecting the child.

Although the parent, family member or friend will share Parental Responsibility a Child Arrangements Order determines with whom the child/young pereson is to live, can direct contact arrangements and will prevent the parent from removing the child/young person from the carer.

A Child Arrangements Order can be granted through a private application to Court. The Court may request a report from Children's Services or CAFCASS addressing the child/young person's welfare.

15. Special Guardianship

Special Guardianship is an order made by a court whereby a child or a young person lives with someone permanently. The special guardian acquires Parental Responsibility for the child or young person and takes day to day decisions about the child/young person's care. Parental Responsibility is shared with the child/young person's parents but the special guardian can make overriding decisions as the primary carer.

Hertfordshire's Family and Friends Team offer post Order support including advice and guidance, training and support groups - see Children's social care factsheets.

See Hertfordshire County Council leaflet on Special Guardianship.

16. Education

From 1 September 2021, the School Admissions Code sets out that the highest priority must be given to looked after children and those previously looked after immediately prior to the granting of an Adoption Order, Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order.

These children will also have access to Pupil Premium Plus - Pupil premium: allocations and conditions of grant 2022 to 2023 - GOV.UK ( and the support of Hertfordshire’s Virtual School.

17. Adoption

See Adoption Statement of Purpose and Adoption Procedures.

In some circumstances it may be appropriate for a child/young person to be adopted by family or friends. When a child/young person is adopted, the child/young person's parents lose all Parental Responsibility and the adoptive parent acquires Parental Responsibility for the child/young person. The adoptive parents become the legal parents and the birth parents cease to be the legal parents although the child/young person in most cases maintains some form of contact with the birth parents, often indirect but sometimes face to face contact.

It is acknowledged that adoption has life long implications and Hertfordshire County Council offers adoption support services for adopted people, their birth families and their adoptive families.

If you are thinking about adopting a child, please contact our Adoption and Fostering Recruitment Team on 0800 917 0925. They will give you more information about the process and invite you along to one of our monthly information sessions.

Alternatively, you can contact the adoption support team via the Customer Services Centre on 0300 123 4040 between 9am and 12pm, Monday to Friday.

You might also like to look at Hertfordshire County Council's website, for information about 'frequently asked questions' and an Adoption pack.

18. How to Contact Hertfordshire County Council Children Services

Customer Services Centre (including out of hours): 0300 123 4043

19. Complaints

If a Family and Friends Foster carers wishes to make a complaint or comment about the way that Hertfordshire County Council have carried out its powers and duties they can access make a complaint procedure. This is accessible online through the Hertfordshire County Council website.

20. Your Views

We would very much like to hear from you about how we can further improve this Policy. Please send your comments to:

Annex A: Caring For Someone Else's Child - Options

Click here to view Annex A: Caring For Someone Else's Child - Options.

Annex B: Entitlement to Support by Family and Friends Carers Under Children Act 1989 Section 17 and Section 20 or Section 31

Child in need supported under section 17 (in an informal arrangement) Child accommodated under section 20 or Section 31
The child is not looked after by theLocal Authority. The child is looked after by the Local Authority and placed in a regulated placement.
The child will not have a care plan but there may be a child in need plan or child protection plan. The child must have a care plan (including health plan, personal education plan and placement plan) which will be reviewed by an independent reviewing officer.
If there is a child in need plan or a child protection plan a social worker or other worker may visit the child and carers. A social worker will visit the child and carers and oversee the child's welfare.
The child must be offered access to an advocacy service where they make or intend to make representations under section 26 of the 1989 Act. The child must be offered access to an advocacy service where they make or intend to make representations under section 26 of the 1989 Act.
The carers will not usually have a separate social worker. A supervising social worker will be appointed for the foster carers.
The Local Authority has discretion to give financial assistance (which can be on the basis of regular payments) but there is no entitlement and family income may be taken into account since the Local Authority must have regard to the means of the child and parents under section 17(8) of the 1989 Act. A weekly fostering allowance will be paid.
Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit may be payable subject to the DWP terms and conditions. There is no entitlement to Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit.
Support may be offered to the carers and/or child but is discretionary. Training and support must be offered to the foster carers.
There is no entitlement to leaving care support. On leaving care the young person may be eligible for ongoing support under the 1989 Act (as amended by the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000).
Any support offered will cease when the young person becomes 18, unless criteria are met for support from adult services. The Local Authority is able to offer continuing support (including financial support) to the carers until the young person is 21, and to support the young person in respect of education and training until they become 25. See Staying Put Policy

Annex C: Useful Organisations and Information for Family and Friends Carers

Action for Prisoners' Families
Works to reduce the negative impact of imprisonment on prisoners' families. Produces publications and resources, and provides advice, information and training as well as networking opportunities.
Address: Unit 21, Carlson Court, 116 Putney Bridge Road, London, SW15 2NQ
Tel: 020 8812 3600
Advice line: 0808 808 2003 /

Offers a range of support developed for families and carers affected by substance misuse.
Address: 67-69 Cowcross Street, London, EC1M 6PU
Tel: 020 7251 5860

Works with families affected by drugs and alcohol, and supports carers of children whose parents have drug and alcohol problems.
Address: 25 Corsham Street, London, N1 6DR
Tel: 020 7553 7640

Advisory Centre for Education (ACE)
Offers free independent advice and information for parents and carers on a range of state education and schooling issues, including admissions, exclusion, attendance, special educational needs and bullying.
Address: 1c Aberdeen Studios, 22 Highbury Grove, London, N5 2DQ
General Advice line: 0808 800 5793
Exclusion advice line: 0808 800 0327
Exclusion information line: 020 7704 9822 (24hr answer phone)
Website offering information and advice to grandparents, plus online and telephone advice.
Helpline: 0845 434 6835

Children's Legal Centre Provides free independent legal advice and factsheets to children, parents, carers and professionals.
Address: University of Hertfordshire, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Hertfordshire, CO4 3SQ
Tel: 01206 877 910
Child Law Advice Line: 0808 802 0008
Community Legal Advice - Education: 0845 345 4345

Citizens Advice Bureaux
Helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free, independent and confidential advice through local bureaux and website.

Coram Baaf
Supports agencies and professionals who work with children and young people in care.

Department for Education
Lists details of telephone help lines and online services to provide information, advice and support on a range of issues that parents and families may face in bringing up children and young people.

Family Fund Trust
Helps families with severely disabled or seriously ill children to have choices and the opportunity to enjoy ordinary life. Gives grants for things that make life easier and more enjoyable for the disabled child and their family.
Address: 4 Alpha Court, Monks Cross Drive, York, YO32 9WN
Tel: 0845 130 4542

Family Rights Group (FRG)
Provides advice to parents and other family members whose children are involved with or require children's social care services because of welfare needs or concerns. Publishes resources, helps to develop support groups for Family and Friends carers, and runs a discussion board.
Address: Second Floor The Print House, 18 Ashwin Street, London, E8 3DL
Tel: 020 7923 2628
Advice line: 0800 801 0366

The Fostering Network
Supports foster carers and anyone with an interest in fostering to improve the lives of children in care. Publishes resources and runs Fosterline, a confidential advice line for foster carers including concerns about a child's future, allegations and complaints, legislation and financial matters.
Address: 87 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8HA
Tel: 020 7620 6400
Fosterline: 0800 040 7675
E-mail: /

Champions the role of grandparents and the wider family in children's lives, especially when they take on the caring role in difficult family circumstances.
For grandparents looking after a relative's child, Tel: 0300 123 7015.
For grandparents who've lost contact with a grandchild, Tel: 0300 033 7015
Address: Kinship, 18 Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9PF
Tel: 020 8981 8001

Mentor UK
Promotes the health and wellbeing of children and young people to reduce the damage that drugs can do to lives.
Address: Fourth Floor 74 Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3JG
Tel: 020 7739 8494

Family Mediation Helpline
Provides information and advice about family mediation services and eligibility for public funding.
Tel: 08456 026627

National Family Mediation (NFM)
Provides mediation services to support couples who are separated, and their children and others affected by this.
Address: 4 Barnfield Hill, Exeter, EX1 1SR
Tel: 0300 4000 636

Partners of Prisoners and Families Support Group
Operates helpline and provides a variety of services to support anyone who has a link with someone in prison, prisoners and other agencies.
Address: Valentine House, 1079 Rochdale Road, Blackley, Manchester, M9 8AJ
Tel: 0161 702 1000
Offenders' Families Helpline Tel: 0808 808 2003

Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT)
Provides practical and emotional support to prisoners and to their children and families. The Kinship Care Support Service provides support and advice to family members and friends who care for children whose parents are in HMP Holloway.
Address: Park Place, 12 Lawn Lane, Vauxhall, London, SW8 1UD
Tel: 020 77359535 55

Parents Against Drug Abuse (PADA)
Delivers support and services to the families of substance users, including a national helpline.
Address: The Foundry, Marcus Street, Birkenhead, CH41 1EU
Tel: 0151 649 1580
National Families Helpline: 08457 023867

Parentline Plus
Provides help and support in all aspects of family life, including information, an online chat facility and a 24 hour helpline.
Address: CAN Mezzanine, 49-51 East Road, London, N1 6AH
Tel: 020 7553 3080
24hr Advice line: 0808 800 2222

The government's national drugs helpline which offers free confidential drugs information and advice 24 hours a day. Information and advice is also available via the website.
24 hour advice line: 0800 77 66 00
Text: 82111

Coram Voice
Will get your voice heard, tell you about your rights, give you the support you need through our advocates and work with you to improve the care system.
Address: 320 City Road, London, EC1V 2NZ
Tel: 020 7833 5792
Young person's advice line: 0808 800 5792

Young Minds
Works to improve the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children and young people and empowering their parents and carers.
: 48-50 St John Street, London, EC1M 4DG
Tel: 020 7336 8445
Parents helpline: 0808 802 5544